By now, maybe you are wondering how far one can pimp an Apple 2, right? Well, you can’t even imagine. Today, let’s talk about communications. Because this post is about pimping and not about using Morse code, let’s not even glorify the serial interface, the Super Serial board of the Apple 2 or a Modem. And to prove my point about the futility of this excercice, just remember that the Apple 2 doesn’t come with a serial port out of thee box. So, let’s get serious, shall we?
Ethernet! Yeah, anything else would be a joke. Now, if you followed my previous posts, in particular the one dedicated to the video pimping (here), you know that my Apple IIe Platinum has already a Wi-Fi adapter. True, it is not used at this point, but the Linux kernel running the video card is entirely able to do so. But today, I will talk about the good old wired Ethernet. I picked a couple of Uthernet II adapters by a2RetroSystems. For today’s experiments, only one adapter suffices, but I wanted to have two of them, so I can add one to my boosted other Apple IIe (here). The card is tinny and runs from any slot. In my system, it landed in slot #2, between the CFFA 3000 and the VidHD. The best way to attach the card to the network is to use a panel-mount extension cable and bring the RJ45 port to the back of the computer – as it should be. I plan to replace this cable in the future with a Uthernet II Light Pipe kit, once it is back in stock.
Assuming the installation worked, you should immediately see the link and activity LEDs blink. The user guide is complete and covers all the aspects of the 10/100 Mb/s board, especially the programming aspects. A great resource if you want to write your application using the network interfaces. However, you can also download the ready-to-use disk images from a2RetroSystems if you are iching to get to the Internet. These ProDOS images are containing the setup utilities as well as dedicated communications applications. First, you set up the hardware: pick the adapter model and its installation slot. Then, you either set a static IP configuration or request one via DHCP. And that’s it, folks, we are done. Just remember that the settings are saved onto the floppy (or image), and you must re-do the setup if you boot from another image. The available applications are Contiki, the web text-only browser (like Lynx), a Web server and a Telnetserver.
The best compliment I can make to the Uthernet II is that it just works, like any modern network adapter. True, the software has limitations, but that expected from an 8-bit system shipped without a simple serial interface! And if you need something specific, knock yourself out, write your ad-hoc feature. Although it is quite exciting to search for text-only web sites – I added a shortlist at the end of the post – the interface comes handy to transfer files between your computer and the Apple 2.
While I was pimping the comms department of my Apple, I remembered a book I read in 1985 titled Holon (by Philippe Colonna and Jean-Christophe Colonna, published by Seuil, 1985 – ISBN:2020087960). In short and with a spoiler alert, the book is about the totalitarian and omnipotent entity (Holon), the union of decadent organized crime, and a ruthless omniscient software. Holon dominates the early 21st-century world, recruiting its agents in the society, replicating infinitely itself in all computers, and learning faster than any human can. A classic Orwellian dystrophic universe if you want. Holon’s weapon of choice is the eradication. Say something unpalatable, and Holon erases you from the surface of the earth (it really cancels all your subscriptions ;-)). No more access, all your resources are gone, you name it. Few decades later, we can credit the authors for getting some aspects right. In fine, the book is a bit confused but remains entertaining and pertinent. But what is the relation with today’s post? Well, the hero, David Gladstone, meets up with Alexander, an old fart, and talk about the very dangerous topic of paleo-computing. The Apple 2 is used as an example, hoping this old tech will go unnoticed while hacking into Holon…
In the next post of this series, we will review a fresh piece of hardware and software dedicated to the serious developer. Stay tuned, and enjoy the WE!
Note: you can use the following sites with Contiki: wttr.in, lite.cnn.com, text.npr.org, Google, DuckDuckGo, Textfiles.com, Archive.org, Wikipedia, Hacker News, Lobsters. More sites listed here.